Obsession

“Did you know the Maxwell Land Grant Company is evicting people who’ve been farming here for decades?” the Reverend Franklin Tolby demanded.

At the other end of the small pine table, Mary Tolby moved a raised biscuit from the chipped ceramic platter to her plate. “That’s terrible,” she said. “These biscuits are quite good this time. I think I’ve finally gotten used to that stove. Ruthie, eat your peas or there’ll be no dessert.”

Her husband picked absently at his food. “It’s a moral outrage,” he said. “They have no right.”

Mary looked anxiously at his pale face. Since they’d arrived in Cimarron, Franklin had been on horseback constantly, west to Elizabethtown, south to Fort Union and beyond, yet his cheeks showed no evidence of windburn or sun.

“I’ve made strawberry pie for desert,” she said. “An Indian girl came by selling berries. They’re very sweet. The result should be quite tasty.”

Franklin’s eyes focused on her for a split second, then his head snapped up, as if he were listening to something outside the house. “And the Indians,” he said. “With this much land, there’s room for them also.” He paused for a long moment, fork in the air, then said, “Excuse me,” dropped his frayed linen napkin onto the table, and hurried from the room. She heard him scrabbling through the papers on his desk as he prepared to write down whatever had just come to him.

Mary sighed and reached to cover the food on his half-empty plate with a clean napkin. “Ruthie, eat your peas,” she said absently.

Copyright © 2016 Loretta Miles Tollefson

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